Fall protection systems that workers rely on for their safety can cause grievous injury that can result in their death. When workers are suspended by these devices, they can become trapped which can delay treatment by first responders. Further, just because the fall was halted, the individual can suffer suspension trauma which can cause permanent injuries to internal organs.
Fall Protection Systems
Fall protection systems are designed to restrict the distance a worker can fall from ladders, scaffolds, and elevated platforms. In most cases, these personal protective devices restrict the individual’s fall to no more than a few feet. However, if the device is improperly fitted, poorly maintained, or defective in any way, the device may fail to function and the individual can fall the full distance to the surface below. Because slips and falls happen in an instant, workers must be able to rely on the safety and effectiveness of their fall protection system. However, even when they stop the fall, that doesn’t mean the individual isn’t susceptible to injury or death.
According to some experts, five minutes is all it takes for blood to pool within an individual’s lower extremities. This reduces the flow of oxygenated blood to the organs. The longer the blood flow is restricted, the greater the damage to the individual’s heart, kidneys, brain, and lungs. This can cause the individual to lose consciousness, suffer irreversible organ damage, or tumble into cardiac arrest. Signs of suspension trauma include profuse sweating, difficult breathing, dizziness, blurry vision, and nausea.
The Importance of Rescue Training
Because suspension trauma can occur at any time, and at any height, it is crucial for everyone on the worksite to undergo rescue training. However, most company’s do not put their employees through such programs. The result is that workers are left waiting until first responders arrive with the necessary training and equipment to perform the rescue. This means that a fallen worker can be left hanging for 5, 10, 30 minutes or longer before first responders arrive, deploy their equipment, and conduct the rescue.
Injured workers who have been suspended for any length of time should be thoroughly examined by a medical professional for signs of suspension trauma. That’s because organ damage may not be immediately apparent until hours or days after the injury has occurred. By then, the injury may be untreatable and could result in the worker’s premature death.